Fantastic contemporary music at the first Johnson Sessions of the year

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On Saturday evening, students and guests gathered for the first Johnson Sessions of the year. Following an afternoon of sound checks, over twenty acts gathered eager to perform. 

The opening act, a band formed through Millfield’s ‘Contemporary Music Appreciation Society’ is a band consisting of Darcey Harrison, Eloise Whitehouse, and Sabrina Jones on vocals, Dikshant Dhoke on bass, Charlie Swift on piano, Charlie Morgan-Hughes on kit, and Kush Lunawath and Rhys Miller on electric guitar. As the first act of the evening they performed What You Know by Two Door Cinema Club. The sound was fantastic, with a strong and an emotive vocal line, whilst the instrumental backing provided a level of excitement and complexity. The second act of the night and our final group performance was by ‘The Billy Swift Experience’ consisting of Charlie and Billy Swift on vocals and kit respectively, Charlie Morgan Hughes on keyboard, and Rhys Miller on electric guitar. The group passionately sang Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf, clearly delving into the character and sound of the song. Up next was our first solo singer of the evening, Oyinkan Kasunmu, who sang Turning Tables by Adele. Louis Chapham sang next, accompanied by Mr Clulow. Louis sang Lost Without You by Freya Ridings, performing with a sonorous sound which complimented the song well. Next up was Tana Holding, singing Sunrise by Norah Jones, her first performance with a microphone in front of a live audience. Throughout the song there was a clear sense of musicianship, and Tana’s voice illuminated an almost natural reverb which echoed around the hall. Imogen Scott-Carter then accompanied herself, singing with great emotive power When the Party’s Over by Billie Eilish. Afterwards, Samuel Peplar took to the stage to sing his interpretation of Be Alright by Dean Lewis, and Samuel’s deeper and richer singing voice echoed the song well. Up next was Laila Dagazau who sang I Know I’m Not The Only One, by Sam Smith. This was followed by Ines Bocanegra Hallin singing A Team by Ed Sheeran. Our final two vocalists of the first half were Eliza Olinma singing No One by Alicia Keys; and Callum Currie accompanied by Mr Clulow. The final act of the half was a special treat by Toby Smith on electric cello, playing Back in Black by AC/DC – seeing the cello reimagined in a contemporary style was a sight to behold.

After a short interval, where students and guests had time to relax and enjoy a drink, the second set began with Darcey Harrison singing Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. Darcey sang with clear command for the song and the powerful sound she created brought the song into its character. Up next, Esme Ellis accompanied herself as she sang impeccably, I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry. Following this, was vocalist Annabella Dawkins, accompanied by Mr Boyle. Annabella sang an elegantly expressive and virtuosic version of The Winner Takes it All by Abba. Annabella’s impressive range and plaintive singing gave the song a very natural sound. A break from vocal acts, Rhys was up on stage next, playing Crazy Train on electric guitar with a backing track. Rhys added flare and virtuosity to the music, and his improvised solos were most impressive, interweaving quickly around the backing tracks rhythmic percussion section. Paige Millard then took to the stage to sing Say Something from A Great Big World. Up next was Caity Collins, who sang an emotional and passionate interpretation of My Mistake by Gabrielle Aplin. Caity immersed herself in both the lyrics and music illuminating the message of the song. Next, Tabi Veitch sang Always Remember Us This Way by Lady Gaga. As we approach the end of the second set, Eloise Parton was up next singing Call Out My Name by The Weeknd. Eloise sang with a rich and powerful tone, and the hall was filled with a warm and inviting sound. Our penultimate act was sung by Patrick Jackson, who sang a House Song favourite from this year: I’m Still Standing by Elton John. Patrick grasped the character of the piece instantly, and his energetic and passionate singing was matched only by Mr Boyle as he delighted the audience to an eccentric piano accompaniment. Our final act of the evening was sung by Hannah Parry (and Mr Boyle). Their performance of Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me by Elton John was enjoyed by all, including Mr Boyle’s scrupulous intermittent harmony. Hannah portrayed the song with power and her strong vocal projection and clear diction allowed for a very enjoyable performance.

View photos from the performances here.